Federer downs Nadal in straight sets to win Miami Open

KEY BISCAYNE: Weary from three months of winning, Roger Federer hit one last shot Sunday, whacking a celebratory forehand into the stands to punctuate his victory over Rafael Nadal in the Miami Open final.

Now comes a well-deserved two-month break.

“I’m not 24 anymore so things have changed in a big way and I probably won’t play any clay court event except the French [Open],” Federer said. “I need a rest. My body needs healing.”

He’s not complaining. At 35, Federer is playing some of the best tennis of his career so good he’s even dominating his longtime nemesis. Federer beat Nadal for the third time this year, 6-3, 6-4, to become the oldest men’s champion in the 33-year history of the tournament and clinch his 91st career title.

Federer also defeated Nadal in the Australian Open final in January, and two weeks ago en route to the Indian Wells title. He’s the first three-time champion this year on the men’s tour and ready for a break.

The father of four has an exhibition scheduled next week, but plans to skip the bulk of the clay court season before returning for the French Open in late May.

“I want to stay healthy,” Federer said. “When I’m healthy and feeling good, I can produce tennis like this. If I’m not feeling this good, there’s no chance I’ll be in finals competing with Rafa.”

Federer broke once in each set for his fourth consecutive victory over Nadal, though the Spaniard still leads their career head-to-head record at 23-14, due entirely to his superiority on clay.

The Swiss improved to 19-1 this year. His only loss was at the hands of Russian Evgeny Donskoy in the second round in Dubai.

The result left Nadal a five-time Miami runner-up, after previous final defeats in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014.

RAFAEL Nadal of Spain hits a return to Switzerland’s Roger Federer during the Miami Open decider.—AP

“Every three years I am here in this position but always with the smaller trophy,” he observed. “Hopefully I will not have to wait three more years to be in that position fighting again for a title.”

“I have to say congratulations to Roger. Amazing start of the season, one of the best comebacks on the tour ever after a long injury.”

The first set was a tight affair with both players having their opportunities to break. But it was not until the eighth game and 10th break point of the set that one of them was able to get ahead.

Nadal could only find the net from a Federer backhand and the Swiss grabbed a 5-3 lead and held the next game to secure the first set.

The second set took an almost identical path, albeit with fewer openings to break for both players until Federer again pounced, to grab a 5-4 lead when Nadal went long returning a fine backhand.

Serving for the championship, Federer hit his only double-fault on the first point but quickly regrouped. The next point was the longest of the match, and Federer ended the 19-shot rally with a forehand winner in the corner.

When Nadal sailed a return long on the final point, Federer took the ball on a bounce behind the baseline and sent it into the stands, then waved both hands in jubilation.

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